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Section 4 – Road Traffic Act (R011124)

Freedom of Information: Section 4 – Road Traffic Act (R011124)

Thank you for your e-mail dated 24 August 2015 in which you seek the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA):

“I would like to know the following information about S4 RTA charges please:

1 the number of people charged under S4 RTA in Scotland in each year for the last 3 years (broken down by region if at all possible).

2 of those charged the number that:

  1. pled guilty before trial
  2. were found guilty at trial
  3. were found innocent at trial
  4. did not progress to trial for other reasons (and what the reasons were).”

Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 makes it an offence for any person to drive, or be in charge of, a mechanically propelled vehicle (such as a car, van, etc) on any public road or public place whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service operate a live, operational case management database which is designed for the purpose of receiving reports and managing criminal cases. The information we have provided, and which is contained in the table at Annex A, is extracted from this system. Due to the way the system works we are unable to provide information about how many separate individuals have been reported, and so the information that we have provided relates to the number of charges reported to us. 

Over the period of the three financial years, 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, a total of 1724 charges alleging a contravention of Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 were reported to COPFS.  

COPFS is organised into three geographical areas, known as Federations, covering the North, East and West of the country. The figures have been further broken down into these three areas. 

The number of guilty pleas, findings of guilt, acquittals at trial (where someone has been found not guilty or the charge not proven) have been specified in the table provided.  

You will see that there a number of reasons why a charge has not proceeded to trial, including where ‘no action’ has been taken or where a not guilty plea has been accepted.

A decision to take no action on a particular charge can be for reasons such as there being insufficient evidence available to prove the charge. The pleas of not guilty accepted include those cases where the accused has pled guilty to a series of more serious offences or the conduct of the charge relating to Section 4 has been included in another charge, and the decision to accept the not guilty plea to the charge is unlikely to affect the overall sentence imposed.

Annex A

Charges reported to COPFS under S4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988

  Financial Year Reported
  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Total number of charges reported to COPFS 569 609 546
Total number of charges reported to East Federation 124 172 125
No Action 8 17 4
To Children's Reporter 0 0 0
Not separately actioned 8 17 6
Pled guilty 75 79 53
Found guilty 1 3 0
Found not guilty/not proven 3 6 4
Accepted Not Guilty 21 26 14
Deserted Simpliciter 1 1 0
No Further Action 6 18 8
No decision yet 0 0 1
Ongoing 1 5 35


Total number of charges reported to North Federation

182 183 165
No Action 12 19 14
To Children's Reporter 0 0 0
Not separately actioned 11 7 16
Pled guilty 101 107 66
Found guilty 6 3 6
Found not guilty/not proven 5 5 2
Accepted Not Guilty 35 31 21
Deserted Simpliciter 0 0 0
No Further Action 10 9 11
No decision yet 0 0 0
Ongoing 2 2 29


Total number of charges reported to West Federation

263 254 256
No Action 38 25 14
To Children's Reporter 2 0 0
Not separately actioned 23 18 22
Pled guilty 115 109 97
Found guilty 4 7 6
Found not guilty/not proven 8 8 3
Accepted Not Guilty 35 41 19
Deserted Simpliciter 4 5 4
No Further Action 31 30 10
No decision yet 0 0 0
Ongoing 3 11 81


1. Pled guilty includes pleas of guilty to an amended or an alternative charge.

2. Found guilty includes found guilty to an amended or an alternative charge.

3. Found not guilty/not proven includes charges where a no case to answer submission was successful or whether the prosecutor withdrew the charges.

4. No further action includes charges where action was originally taken but subsequently discontinued.

5. No action includes charges where the initial decision was to take court action and offer no direct measure.

6. Not separately actioned includes charges where the section 4 charge was submitted along with the other charges where action was not taken in respect of that charge, but where other charges were prosecuted. This may be because, for example, the prosecutor took the view that an alternative charge was more appropriate or because details of the charge were included within the body of another charge for evidential reasons.